Rankin: I Could Have Been Washed Up At 21

Rankin, JordanBy STEVE MASCORD
BOOM Wests Tigers winger Jordan Rankin says he could have been washed up barely into his 20s if not for a career-saving two-year stint with Hull.
In 2008, Rankin became the third youngest debutant in Australian first class rugby league history when he made his debut for Gold Coast at the age of 16 years and 238 days.
But he tells League Week he couldn’t handle the resultant pressure and was facing the possibility his NRL career was over before it began.
“It was a double-edged sword,” says Rankin, now 24.
“There was a lot of expectation on a kid. I was still in year 11 at school when I debuted and … mate, I didn’t live up to it. I didn’t live up to those standards people had set for me.
“I had a lot of growing up to do, maturity wise, with the way I played rugby league.
“To thrust a kid in at that age, there’s only a select few who will be able to handle it. I have no doubt that 18 is a good age now for kids (to make their debut).
“It’s not so much physically ready. It’s the mental side of the game that people have lacked in the past and it’s something I lacked as well, just having to deal with the media and how to shut that out.”
The call from Humberside came when he was at his lowest.
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“Hull definitely saved my career,” he said. “They instilled so much confidence in what I can do.
“It was a decision I had to make pretty quickly while I was at the Titans. It’s a place I wasn’t getting a run, playing first grade and it was messing with my confidence a bit, playing Queensland Cup and messing with my confidence.
“I just thought it was a good opportunity to go over there and start afresh where no-one knew who I was. Hull … hadn’t even seen me play in person, they’d only seen me play on tape.”
“The two years I had in England matured me as a kid and all the media I had as a young kid, I learned to deal with that a little nit better as well.”Rankin, who scored two tries in the 30-22 win over South Sydney on Thursday, reckons the lessons he learned as an over-hyped rookie have helped him deal with the scorn heaped upon Wests Tigers during a six-match losing streak.
“You have the people close to you whose opinions mean more to you and people who don’t know you from a bar of soap and the people who judge you from the grandstands are the ones you don’t really need to listen to,” he says.
“You try to stay away from the people who are negative about how you play and what you bring to a team.”
And while he’s making a go of it on the flanks, Rankin doesn’t want coach Jason Taylor to forget it’s not the only string to his bow.
“I’d never say never to playing in the halves again or playing fullback again,” he said. “It’s definitely the two positions I feel more comfortable in.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK
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BONDI BEAT: April 2016

By STEVE MASCORDRLW April 2016

THE clubs may not like it but do we now have enough English players in the NRL to revive a mid-season Test?

There is absolutely no reason why the Kiwis should not play while Origin is on, aside from the fact clubs would declare war if they had to stand down their New Zealanders along with their Maroons and Blues.

Even without the stand-down, though, the Test could be played on a Friday in the May split round.

The problem in the past has been opposition. But there is now enough Englishmen to need only a handful of others to take the long flight Down Under.

Of course, there is ideological issue of handing out England shirts to people who may not have earned it yet.

But as colleague Brad Walter pointed out to me after we watched Sam Burgess’ competitive return in round one, you could have a Great Britain selection that includes Ireland’s Tyrone McCarthy and any number of Scotland ‘heritage players’ such as Kane Linnett and Lachlan Coote.

What do you think?

WHAT about ‘The Bunker’, then?

Firstly, it looks like nothing so much as Mission Control at Cape Canaveral. It’s a real shame Chris Houston has left for Super League as I’d love to hear them say “we have a problem, Houston”.

I am someone who is extremely cynical about adding more apparatuses to officiating when you are always going to get human error.

But having said all that, I like what I’ve seen so far. It’s an improvement. And it puts the NRL even further ahead of Super League.

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MANY readers will be of the opinion that sport’s borders are set in stone and expansionary efforts by rugby league are bound to fail.

Upon my return to Oz, I saw a convincing rebuttal of that argument in the UFC. Walking to Allianz Stadum for South Sydney-Sydney Roosters, I overheard a lad being told he was looking forward to having a few friends around for a fight from Las Vegas.

No mention of the 108-year-old derby taking place up the road.

In the UK, darts provide us with an example of a sport that can grow its market share and cultural relevance.

Sadly we don’t seem to have a united strategy at all – or if we do, we don’t have the resources to even consider putting it into practice.

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IN Australia there is a thing in television sports coverage called “fair use provisions”.

This means that any website or television station can post highlights from any sporting event, whether on not they have the rights.

So while the BBC, for instance, will have still photos of soccer matches they do not have rights to, in Oz they would be allowed by law to show video from those games.

That’s why Australian newspapers declined accreditation for the last rugby union World Cup – because the IRB wanted them to sign away those rights. So the reporters just bought tickets and interviewed players at their hotels.

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What it means in a practical sense for rugby league is that when Chris Sandow kicked that amazing drop goal against Salford, the footage was all over Aussie sites within hours.

One suspects Super League would prefer the fair use provisions were introduced in the UK – the one-pointer on the hooter was a great advert for our game.

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It’s probably the best rugby league story in the world and it’s going unwritten.

Belgian officials brought some Brussels City Council officials to the World Club Challenge on February 21 and they were so impressed with the sport that are going to sink further resources into promoting it.

Where?

In Molenbeek, a hive of extremist activity and a place where police centred their manhunt after the Paris attacks.

Rugby league has a wonderful record in underprivileged areas of channelling aggression more positively.

I’m hoping to visit Brussels this year to chase up this story.

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THE round one NRL clash between Wests Tigers and the Warriors was dubbed the Ivan Cleary Cup by one cynic – because he’d be coaching whoever lost.

True to their form in recent seasons, it was the Aucklanders who fell a long way behind. Fought back, but still lost.

Cleary may not have a steady coaching income at the moment but he’s holding the whip hand when it comes to his future employment prospects.

It wouldn’t surprise if Hull KR sounded him out after sacking Chris Chester; even if Cleary went back to the NRL next year he could probably do some good things in East Hull in 2016.

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WHILE Super League continues with one referee, Down Under we have two in a competition which is planned to be scrapped!

Two referees are in use for televised Under 20s matches and all finals. In round one, because there was only one of these, they threw two whistlers at the Sydney Roosters-South Sydney Holden Cup match, just for practice.

amazonYet this is the last year of the National Youth Competition, which revert to state-based league next year. The NRL still has enough referees to field two in the matches.

Now when we compare this to England … well, lets start with televised under 20s matches and work backwards from there.

And the editor had the hide to ask for 500 words on the biggest differences between rugby league in Australia and in the UK. I could have written 50,000.

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GREG Inglis walked out of the dressing room at Allianz Stadium in round one with his eye on the prize – the fading sunlight at the end of the tunnel.

GI had already done a media conference and studiously avoided meeting the eyes of any of the waiting media.

Then a young Channel Nine reporter stopped him and directly requested a chat. He stopped, considered the request and eventually agreed.

donate2During those moments when he was giving serious thought to denying the cub reporter, I’d like to think he was considering his Queensland and Australian team-mate Jonathan Thurston.

Thurston has set such a high standard of accessibility over the past 12 months that he has almost shamed his colleagues into arresting the sad decline in co-operation with the media throughout the NRL.

He’s even allowed himself to be photographed at home and while in the UK recently did everything of which he was asked – and more.

JT knows that being in Townsville doesn’t help him when it comes to maintaining his profile and that he needs to go an extra yard to ensure his maximises his post-career employment prospects.

Throw in his game-day interaction with kids and he’s setting a high standard for everyone else.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

NRL round two: WESTS TIGERS 42 GOLD COAST 12 at CBUS Super Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

WESTS Tigers coach Michael Potter feared fullback James Tedesco‘s potential-laden season  was over almost before it began.
Fans of the joint venture – even those with sunburn at a sweltering CBUS Super Stadium – went pale when the 21-year-old play motionless after a first half collision during the 42-12 pizzling of Gold Coast.
“I thought ‘oh no’ – I shat myself,” Potter told Fairfax Media. “You think it’s his knee. My first message to the runners was ‘check onTeddy’.”
But a grinning Tedesco‘s said after terrorising Gold Coast with 140 metres gained, nine tackle breaks and a line break: “It was never the knee.
“I copped a knock in the personals. There was a fair bit of pain down there but I was OK before long.”
Some water to the affected area also helped … “I waited for the cameras to be off me first.”
Up 12-6 at halftime, Wests Tigers belted an inexplicably poor Gold Coast after the break to bury the memory of last week’s heavy loss to St George Illawarra.
Wests Tigers centre Chris Lawrence suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and will have scans today.
The oppressive conditions could not have been more different to those in Wigan where he set multiple records, but veteran winger Pat Richards yesterday helped Wests Tigers bury Gold Coast on what was accurately marketed as “White Hot Sunday”.
Temperatures in the middle of the newly renamed CBUS Super Stadium topped 40 degrees; drinks breaks and an extended halftime would have done little to assuage the distress of the 34 players .
Richards, returning to the NRL after a stellar eight years in Super League, scored his first try after four minutes and another in the 31st, and booted goals from all over, in a dominant performance from the joint venture.
The game was only four minutes old when Richards scored the first of his tries, from a simple overlap, in the north-western corner. He was unable to convert but had no trouble three minutes later when Tedesco crossed much closer to the posts after a kick from a sharp-looking Luke Brooks.
Wests Tigers looked to have taken an early stranglehold at 17 minutes, replacement Marty Taupau charging at the line and appearing to have grounded the ball one-handed. But after repeated viewings, video referees Bernard Sutton and Andrew Dunemann chalked off the try.
“They’ve had a look at it and they’ve found he was short of the line and then lost it,” referee Gerard Sutton told Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah.
Hooker Farah responded: “What? They had to look at it 15 times! It’s inconclusive.”
While travelling well on the scoreboard, the joint venture side lost centre Lawrence with less than quarter of the game played. Cory Paterson, who replaced him in the centres was among his side’s best.
After replacement Sauaso Suu was booked for diving at the legs of Titans kicker Aiden Sezer, the five-eighth showed no ill-effects when he crossed in the 23rd minute off a Greg Bird break and converted himself, leaving the home side closer than it probably deserved to be.
But after the outstanding Tedesco executed a try-saving ankle-tap on Albert Kelly, Wests Tigers extended their lead when Richards scored in similar circumstances to
his first with nine minutes remaining in the half, outdoing his previous effort by converting from the sidelines.
Former Titan Boden Thompson then hammered in another nail in the shadows of halftime by fielding Braith Anasta’s bomb for a try confirmed by the video referees.
Paterson was denied a try when the ball bounced off the posts two minutes into the second half; Bird fumbled but replays showed Wests Tigers’ James Gavet getting a hand to Steeden.
But less than another 60 seconds elapsed before late inclusion David Nofaluma scored after some smart lead-up by Brooks; shortly before the second drinks break, Tapau made up for his ealier near miss by steamrolling over for another.
The crowd was told a collarbone injury to Titans five-eighth Bird was not serious but coach John Cartwright was afterwards not completely sure of the prognosis.
“It’s an impact injury … he’s a quick healer,” Cartwright said.

WESTS TIGERS 42 (P Richards 2 L Brooks D Nofoaluma M Taupau J Tedesco B Thompson tries P Richards 7 goals) bt GOLD COAST 12 (A Kelly A Sezer tries A Sezer 2 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium. Referee: G Sutton/D Munro. Crowd: 12,038.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

JOY OF SIX: round one 2015

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

SEEING RED OVER MOSES
WHAT if Dallas Donnelly pulled up outside an NRL ground in his time travelling Delorian and went inside for a gander? What would he make of a competition where you are sent to the sin bin for punching someone but stay on the field for a deadset coat-hanger? How can we be SOFTER on an offence now than we were in the seventies? It defies logic. The ban on referee comments stifled the debate on Saturday night surrounding Mitchell Moses’ shot on William Zillman. Set of Six will debate it; Moses should have been sent off. Flailing fists deter parents from letting their kids play rugby league – do we think mum wants little Johnny to do his best rag doll impersonation every weekend?
BATTLE AHEAD
WELL may Phil Gould and Penrith oppose an external draft – they have more juniors than most other clubs. But one donatechange in the game that has gone un-noticed over the summer has been the rebranding of the state leagues, aside from NSW and Queensland. The South Australian Rugby League is now NRL South Australia – and so on. They are wholly owned subsidiaries of the Moore Park HQ. No doubt, the aim is to do the same with the NSWRL, the QRL and the CRL. The NRL wants to be to rugby league what the NBA is to basketball – that is, just about everything. It will take care of all development and clubs will be shells focused only on winning first grade matches and attracting fans. Set of Six likes the idea.
COCKY FOWLS NOT SCARED OF FOULS
LOTS of things have changed this season by according to Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan, one thing hasn’t. “It’s a little bit faster, sides are trying to find their feet. Sides don’t want to give away too many penalties away – bar the Roosters. They were quite happy to give penalties away and then defend ‘em.” The Roosters do not like accusations they deliberately give away penalties. Flanagan nominated Trent Robinson’s team, South Sydney and Parramatta as sides who had “put their hand up” over the weekend. The Sharks boss wasn’t sure how he’d feel going to Remondis Stadium last night for his first game back from suspension. “Surprisingly, I’m pretty calm about the whole thing,” he said. “It’s not about me. I’ve got a job here to do and I’ve just got to get on with it.”
HELLO 2015
SOME random observations about our first taste of premiership football for the year. One, the game IS faster and there IS amazonless wrestling, and the crowds like it. Friday night at Pirtek Stadium, particularly in the first half, was a revelation; the word “fickle” just isn’t in the dictionaries of western Sydney. Your correspondent was at Headingley, where they sing all night, eight days previously and the local Blue and Gold Army outdid their British cousins easily. A bulked-up Anthony Milford in the halves is a gamble. We won’t get reliable forward pass rulings until there are chips in the balls. Dane Gagai and Joey Leilua could be the centre pairing of the year. Pat Richards could easily realise his ambition of playing in the 2017 World Cup. Live free-to-air TV coverage on a Sunday should have happened years ago.
THE SHAFT FOR SHILLO AND SHANNON
TRENT Merrin was only “dropped” for Monday Night Football if you don’t count the game against Warrington, which he also started from the bench. He was in the starting side for round 26 last year, though – we checked. Two men who WERE dropped, by any definition, are big Canberra forwards David Shillington and Shannon Boyd. They were named in Canberra’s first grade side on Sunday – Shillington in the starting front row – but played NSW Cup. Coach Ricky Stuart admitted the hot conditions were in his mind but “there’s a few other reasons – nothing untoward in regards to the two boys. We made the decision earlier in the week.” Stuart reckons the quicker rucks this year mean “dropped balls and penalties are making a big difference between winning and losing.’
CARNAGE IN FRANCE
Dwrq4E1421835700EVEN a broken rib for Todd Carney took a back seat to the scoreline in the Catalans-Salford Super League game over the weekend. The match finished in a 40-40 draw – which in the Australian premiership would make it the highest scoring drawn game ever, beat three matches which finished 34-34.. In England, there’ve been higher scores in draws – and there almost certainly have been in France, too. After a tackle by Lama Tasi, Carney – who missed the opening two rounds through injury – tweeted: “Just got home from the hospital, Broken Ribs Fingers crossed I won’t be out for long.” Dragons coach Laurent Frayssinous said the tackle was illegal. “It is not acceptable that there is a late tackle on Todd Carney that has left him in the hospital with a broken rib,” he told reporters. Oh, and the penalty which gave Salford a late draw was a tad controversial, too.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Pettybourne: Wests Tigers Stint Destroyed Me Mentally

Pettybourne, EddyBy STEVE MASCORD
STAR Wigan signing Eddy Pettybourne has revealed his season at Wests Tigers last year left him so depressed he asked his family to stay away from NRL games in which he was playing.
Pettybourne, 25, made his competitive debut for the Super League champions in Friday night’s competition opener against Huddersfield before jetting back to Australasia for the World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters on February 22 and a warm-up against the Warriors 10 days earlier.
Eligible for Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and the team he played for in the 2013 World Cup, the United States, Pettybourne said his sole season with Wests Tigers had been a difficult experience.
“I signed under Tim Sheens and obviously he got the sack,” he told Fairfax Media. “I had my plans ready with him. It was kind of hard coming in.
“Mick Potter was a good coach but he just wasn’t probably my style.
“There were times there that I was broken mentally, wasn’t playing good footy. Everything else was just piling up. There are times there when it was stressful.
“It was getting to the point where I was telling my family ‘don’t come to the games’ and that. My mum and dad, they love coming to watch footy – they’re Rabbitohs fans.
“They were always there for me, when I was in the dumps. I was telling my family ‘just stay home, watch it on TV’. You’re in the hole, you think there’s no point. It’s tough, that’s just life I guess.
“I was finding it pretty hard at the Tigers – just getting in the team was pretty tough.
“It was a good experience, working under Mick Potter. It just wasn’t my style, I wasn’t playing good footy over there and he’s given me the opportunity to come here.”
Pettybourne went into a Florida training camp underdone but believes he is up to speed and ready for the season ahead. The call-up to the US, due to his mother’s American Samoa background, gave him the opportunity to check out the set-up at DW Stadium.
He was impressed, and fills the boots of Parramatta-bound Lee Mossop.
The South Sydney junior, who was called up for the Kiwis in 2009 but did not play, had fans chanting his name after a couple of big hits in a pre-season game against St Helens last Friday.
“I’ve got an opportunity to go back to the NRL and prove I can play footy,” he said.
“That’s a big part of it – but seeing my family be there and support me, that’s probably going to drive me more.”

Filed for: SUN-HERALD

THE BIG ISSUE: #59

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

HOW quickly they forget.

By the time you read this, the campaigns of eight NRL teams is are already fading memories. It’s worth pondering how arbitrary and brutal an industry rugby league, and professional sport in general, is.

You train like a dog all summer, you get locked into a weekly grind which is painful, repetitive and unforgiving. And just like that, sometimes at the whim of a match official, injury or suspension, it ends with a shrill siren in round 26.

Bang, you’re not competing anymore. It doesn’t happen so suddenly in too many other areas of human endeavour, except perhaps life itself.

The play-offs are, objectively, even weirder. You train and play for 10 months just to get into one of these things. If it’s a sudden death game, you have effectively put four days into each minute of that contest.

And if you lose – just one game off football – the entire 10 months is gone. The who 10 months is wasted for 575 out of 600 footballers, who have to start again or will never get another chance. Brutal odds.

GOLD COAST: An admirable rear guard action, desperately short on troops. If the comp was a month longer, they may have made the grand final.

PENRITH: Over-achieved due to own hard work. Ivan Cleary has some claim to coach-of-the-year voting, so impressive were the Panthers at times. Luke Walsh, in particular, will be missed.

WARRIORS: Same number of competition points as Penrith but a completely different performance in relation to expectations. Finding the ark of the covenant or King Solomon’s mines easy compared to making themconsistent.

BRISBANE: No-one seems to think they should be subject to the same cycles as other clubs, chiefly because they’re in the capital of the rugby league world. They still have to comply with the salary cap.

CANBERRA: If you can do a “drama and atrocity” graph and overlay it with a “Raiders results” graph, the lines would track each other pretty closely. Dugan, Ferguson, Furner, Earl just does not happen to the same club in the same year.

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA: Still in the midst of a massive downswing post-2010 premiership. The system is designed to inflict such misfortune – but it shouldn’t last this long.

WESTS TIGERS: A woeful years which you could charitably put down to a new coach who had little influence over the shortcomings of the roster he inherited. Must improve.

PARRAMATTA: Not only is there no light at the end of the playing roster tunnel but the coaching and political tunnels each look pitch black as well.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK